Level Up

Recently I had the extreme misfortune of reading two fabulous books back to back (Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl and Karen Thompson Walker’s The Age of Miracles) and I’ve been in a crappy, cranky reading slump ever since.

Because I love reading and needed something to cleanse my brain’s palate I turned to my old friend the graphic novel. It’s been awhile since I’ve read a graphic novel and this weekend I ripped through three of them.

I started with Level Up by Gene Luen Yang & Thien Pham.

This is a slim novel about Dennis Ouyang, a young man obsessed with video games, a hobby his overbearing father doesn’t approve of. But when his father dies suddenly two weeks before his high school graduation, Dennis gets himself a Nintendo and things go downhill from there.

When Dennis is kicked out of college for spending more time gaming than studying, he’s visited by four tiny angels who immediately start to kick his butt into shape and educate him on his destiny. I won’t give anymore away, but I will tell you the angels are pretty awesome, as is the art. Pham’s watercolors give the story a floaty, dreamy quality that suits this story about coming of age, accepting your past, and learning to make decisions for yourself.

While Level Up doesn’t have the emotional, sociological punch of Yang’s American Born Chinese, it is a sweet story about coming to terms with your parents and accepting that maybe they aren’t as bad as you thought they were. Oh, and there’s a lot of video game fun that extends beyond the awesome cover.

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